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Dr Nimish Vakil was born in India and went to a school that was a relic of colonial times (school tie, assembly, cricket, and the debating team). His father was a gastroenterologist, and one of Dr Vakil's earliest memories is that of Sir Francis Avery Jones (under whom his father trained) visiting his home. He had been sent to bed but the great man insisted on meeting the "boys", and on shaking their hands he slipped them £5 each, asking them not to say a word to their parents. Dr Vakil believes that he decided to become a gastroenterologist at that moment.
The only other career Dr Vakil pursued with any seriousness was that of a musician (he played violin), but the lack of innate genius (a prerequisite for a successful career in music) cured him of that fantasy.
Dr Vakil moved to New York to do his internal medicine residency, after completing his initial medical education in India, and then trained as a gastroenterologist at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Much to the distress of his chief in Chicago (who wanted him to be a basic scientist), he decided to study advanced endoscopy in Germany, and spent an amazing few months in Munich with Professor Classen and his associates. Many of Dr Vakil's ties to Europe date to that period.
Dr Vakil moved to Wisconsin 10 years ago, and lives in the small town where his wife grew up.
Dr Vakil is interested in reflux disease, Helicobacter pylori, dyspepsia, and the endoscopic palliation of esophageal cancer.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- My father inspired me the most. He was one of the first gastroenterologists in India and one of the founders of the Indian Endoscopy Society which still has a memorial lecture in his name.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- I think that I've discovered that many of our cherished beliefs are false.
We showed that plastic stents in the esophagus are lethal (New Engl J Med 1993; 329: 1302-7), that sphincterotomy does not cure cryptosporidial biliary pain (New Engl J Med, 1996; 334: 19-23), that H. pylori eradication does not cure symptoms of non-ulcer dyspepsia (New Engl J Med 1999; 341: 1106-11), and that screening for Barrett's esophagus may be more useful than interminable surveillance (Ann Int Med 2003; 138: 176-86).
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- Wasting time in gallstone and lithotripsy research.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- Playing Bach's D Minor Double Concerto for Violin.
- What is your biggest regret?
- That I cannot speak Italian.
- What are your best places in the world?
- My favorite places on Earth are Hawaii and the Himalayas. I love Italy, the Engadine Valley of Switzerland, Knysna (South Africa), Costa Rica and Antigua (Guatemala).
- What music would you take to a desert island?
- Classical: Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss sung by Jessye Norman, the
Magic Flute by Mozart (Lucia Popp, Christa Ludwig, and Elizabeth Schwartzkopf), and Tosca by Puccini (Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Tito Gobbi, De Sabata; La Scala, 1953). Modern: Parachutes by Coldplay, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips, and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams.
- What car do you drive?
- A Volvo S 80 2.9T.
- Why did you get in involved in GastroHep.com?
- Roy Pounder's persuasive silver tongue.